Taqwa means piety, that is, leading a life of caution and restraint in this world.
Umar Farooq, the second Caliph once asked a companion of the Prophet what taqwa was? He replied, “O leader of the believers, have you ever crossed a path which has thorny shrubs, on both sides?” But the companion instead of replying asked another question, “What did you do on such an occasion?” Umar Farooq replied, “I gathered my clothes close to me and moved ahead cautiously.” The companion said, “This is the stuff of taqwa.”
The present world is a testing ground. Here, various kinds of thorns have been scattered for the purpose of testing man, such as negativity, false issues raised by non-serious people, the lure of worldly things. Besides these, there are many unpleasant occurrences, which disturb people’s minds and lead them away from the path of virtue.
All these things are like thorny shrubs lining both sides of the path of life. At any moment it is feared that man may embroil himself in these thorns and then instead of going forward, remain entrapped in these snares of life.
In such a state of affairs the wise man is one who travels the paths of life by gathering up his clothes to avoid becoming, entangled in these unpleasant snares. In this way, he is able to continue his journey unhampered. Yet at all times he must remain conscious of the fact that he must protect himself. He has to adopt the path of avoidance, not of entanglement.
Man has been created with an upright nature. If no hindrance comes in the way, then every man will, on his own, take the right course. That is why; the utmost precaution must be taken against allowing unnatural obstacles to come in the way.
Then, guided by this upright nature, man will continue to walk along the right path until he meets his Lord.